President Obama concluded visits with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and King Salman of Saudi Arabia with predictable news media queries about whether he had raised specific human-rights cases with his hosts.
The president spoke in general terms about human-rights issues when in India and acknowledged he had not raised specific cases in either country, including that of the Saudi blogger who had received a sentence of 1,000 canings for “insulting” Islam.
The president said he would raise human-rights cases with Saudi and Indian authorities on other occasions. Leaving aside the question of whether the commemoration of the death of a monarch is an appropriate time to raise such issues, the president’s actions, or non-actions, predictably raised the question once again of how effective it is for an American leader to raise specific human-rights cases with leaders of other nations.
When I served in Congress, I found that Secretary of State George Shultz was very effective in raising the cases of individual Soviet Jews, including relatives of my constituents, who had suffered decades of persecution and wanted to immigrate to America. The secretary told me he kept a list of such “refusenik” cases in his pocket and never let a meeting with a Soviet official go by without raising an individual case. Admittedly, this was at a time of warming U.S.-Soviet relations in the Reagan-Gorbachev era.
Continue reading at The Seattle Times: President Obama must press for human rights